Play Red Light, Green Light. Cut 2 large circles from red paper and green paper. Glue them together. Write “go” on the green circle and “stop” on the red. If you’d like, glue on a popsicle stick to serve as a handle. Have your child stand at the end of a hallway with you at the other end. Explain the rules: When you hold up the green circle he can take steps forward; when you hold up the red, he has to stop. When he gets close enough to hug you, he wins. Games like this, which involve following directions and resisting the impulse to run forward, help children practice self-control.
Use pretend play to act out feelings. Choose one of your child’s favorite stuffed animals or dolls and have it get a boo-boo and start crying. Ask your child: What can you do to make the baby feel better? Encourage caring responses like rubbing the doll’s back or giving the doll a hug and kiss. Role-playing in this way helps children “practice” self-control and develop empathy.
Make play a challenge. Offer your child the chance to try a more challenging game—for example, walking along a line that you have taped on the floor in masking tape, or to hop from one point to another. She may succeed the first time or she may need several tries to master the game. Help your child cope with her frustration if this task doesn’t come easily. Encourage her to keep at it, and let her know that learning a new skill takes time.